The NY Times called Shonda Rhimes an ‘angry black woman,’ UGH.


Shonda Rhimes is the executive producer on the new Viola Davis show, How to Get Away with Murder. Shonda finds time to executive produce that show in between writing and producing Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, two shows she also created. Shonda did not “create” HTGAWM. Those three sentences ^^ took me about a minute to write as I looked through Shonda’s IMDB page. That was one minute New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley couldn’t spare. Stanley wrote a “think piece” about How to Get Away with Murder, Shonda Rhimes and Viola Davis, and the think piece is pretty much the WORST piece of TV criticism of the year. At least. You can read the piece here.

Beyond the simple errors that could have easily been straightened out by a quick visit to IMDB, much of Stanley’s premise is wrong-headed and ham-fisted, if not flat-out racist. Stanley is – I think? – trying to patronizingly describe how Shonda Rhimes is an “angry black woman” (while using the words “angry black woman” about a million times), but Stanley says it’s all okay because Shonda owns her angry black woman-ness and somehow has managed to succeed despite being SO angry, SO black and SO woman-y. As you can imagine, professional Angry Black Woman Shonda Rhimes had some stuff to say about the NYT piece:

In response to the NYT piece, Slate and Vox both published reaction pieces defending Shonda and the characters she creates. TL;DR version: Shonda creates compelling characters who display a range of emotions (“anger” being one of them), and it’s 2014 so maybe we shouldn’t call Shonda Rhimes an “angry black woman” for being a highly successful, talented, respected and beloved person in a difficult industry.

PS… How much do you love Joshua Malina?


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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75 Responses to “The NY Times called Shonda Rhimes an ‘angry black woman,’ UGH.”

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  1. Sixer says:

    Blimey. The Rhimes soapy-type shows aren’t up my alley but I do feel obliged to stick my hand up and say I STAND WITH SHONDA RHIMES. Or some other Twitter-y, hashtag-y kinda thing. You know what I mean. I STAND WITH SHONDA RHIMES.

    • HoneyBea says:

      I started watching Grey’s when I was 13, so I hope I can be forgiven for still following. I tried to watch Scandal, now as an adult, I just couldn’t but I still applaud Shonda for her success!

    • Sixer says:

      I don’t think anyone needs to be forgiven for watching any shows they enjoy! The long-running soapy-drama format just doesn’t appeal to me personally, is all.

      The Sixlets inform me that her shows regularly feature same sex and mixed race couples in a positive way, for example, and I’m all for that. But it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t. She seems to make positive-vibe shows that many people enjoy. Quite how that makes her an angry black woman – whatever that is for crissakes – is beyond me.

      • Stef Leppard says:

        The NY Times writer was strangely trying to compliment Rhimes by calling her an “angry black woman.” It was bizarre and poorly thought out. The whole time I was reading it I felt like btw the lines the critic was saying “LOOK AT HOW CLEVER I AM!” Anyways, I haven’t seen Scandal but I used to watch Grey’s and I felt like that show was pretty “race blind” in a good way. And Meredith was way more “angry” than Bailey. So was Cristina for that matter.

      • Sozual says:


        Unless the show is full of malice or the music(whatever art), then no reason to feel ashamed. Haven’t seen Scandal. Grey’s, I haven’t watched any new episodes. I do watch the re-runs. Tv takes work (time) and I would rather just buy the dvds. I will work on watching HTGAWM. It seems so LAW AND ORDER: SVU

        @Stef Leppard

        What that fake writer said was passive aggressive. She was not trying to give a compliment.

      • MCraw says:


        The worst part was when the writer, on top of all the BS about Shonda, writes that Viola Davis is “not classically beautiful” because she is an older dark skin black woman, not a Halle Berry. I never read the NYT because the Grey Lady is a racist. So many instances of this and playing it off as “clever” or “witty”. I just say dumb.

    • Anne tommy says:

      Enough to make me an angry white woman…

  2. Louise177 says:

    I doubt the writer saw more than one episode of any of these shows. There’s a difference between angry and in charge. I wouldn’t characterize Olivia and Bailey as “angry black woman”. If these women were white or men I doubt they would be characterized as angry.

    • Barbara says:

      her comments on Bailey terrorizing her interns is probably a series summary from season one she read to write her brilliant piece of shit for the NYT.

      • truthSF says:

        Dr. “Natzi” Bailey was one of the main reasons season 1-3 of Grey’s Anatomy was so highly successful.

  3. Kiddo says:

    The NYT: becoming less relevant and less trustworthy with each passing day.

    • Pix says:

      Alessandra Stanley is the worst. She gets blasted at least once or twice a year for being obnoxious and ill-informed. She thinks she “controversial” and “provocative” but she’s really just a @-hole. Great job NYTimes!

    • lisa says:

      i dont like any of rimes’ shows, but im not paid to write about them either. this is so lazy.

  4. Barbara says:

    “As Annalise, Ms. Davis, 49, is sexual and even sexy, in a slightly menacing way, but the actress doesn’t look at all like the typical star of a network drama. Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry, who played an astronaut on the summer mini-series “Extant.””

    OMG! She said in different words Viola Davis is blacker than others, less beautiful than others. This writer seems a BIG racist. How is this allowed in a publication such as the NYT?

    “Maybe it’s karma, or just coincidence with a sense of humor, but some of the more memorable actresses in that movie (its star Emma Stone, who played a young writer championing civil rights, is not one of them) are now all on network television, only this time, the help is on top.”

    so black people are supposed to be only the help?

    Maybe I’m reading this piece all wrong, but I think she tried to add a few pieces as if she was recognizing the work Rhimes did to put black people (especially women) front and center in her shows… but what I really feel is that she’s taking jab after jab on it. She’s nitpicking the fact that Shonda only chooses black stars, that they’re all ‘angry’, no role-models, sexual, etc (as if every other white star isn’t the same). It seems to bother her, she keeps saying that Rhimes gets away with things in this industry. I’m disgusted by this person and I lost all respect to NYT. And I’m as white as they get, just in case someone follows suit the writer and thinks I’m an angry black woman… but man, am I angry on such a disgusting piece of ‘journalism’?

    • Birdix says:

      I sort of understand the help reference because it follows a reference to the movie (sloppily) but how about this?

      The show suddenly seems to be on a diversity jag: On the season premiere this month, another black comedian, the newcomer Michael Che, will make his debut as an anchor of “Weekend Update.”

      A diversity jag????

      • whatsmyname? says:

        Ugh she might has well said “Michael Che got hired because he is black”.

      • msw says:

        Ughhhhh. A diversity jag. Also known as, baby steps towards casting non-whites in leading roles (or any roles, really) which don’t involve maids, rapists, or construction worker uniforms. More diversity jags, please!

  5. Pinky says:

    I’m shocked by this!

    Not. “Journalism” is a joke in this country. From both sides. There’s no credibility, no research, no objectivity, no truth whether in an opinion piece, review, “news” report, or otherwise. Our free press has been bought and most of the public has bought their lies, hook, line, and sinker.

  6. frisbeejada says:

    Find it utterly depressing that ‘commentators’ are still writing this crap, and still getting away with it…

  7. Tiffany27 says:

    Just goes to show no matter how successful you become, how many barriers you break, how intelligent you are, there will always be idiots who reduce you to nothing but “an angry black woman”. F*ck this “journalist” and I hope she loses her wallet.

    • msw says:

      That’s what I came here to say.

    • ds says:

      It’s simply because there are more idiots out there then inteligent, hardworking people. I work in arts and I see this all the time: once you become successful or find your specific signature that’s out of the box in any possible way; people find a way to attact much easier than to support. I don’t think this is as racist as it is just plain hatred towards someone you can’t relate to and it’s always easier to bully then try to understand. This author is frustrated and… well it’s just sad. But that’s the majority – sad and intimidated.

      • Sozual says:

        It is not about understanding. It is about jealousy. Angelina is a prime example. She got attacked so hard because she is beautiful, from white women. If you are seen to be in a superior place with finances,looks, or pedigree you will be attacked. Finding the things that distinguishes another person from you are the easiest things to attack.

    • don't kill me i'm french says:

      Yes Yes Yes

    • Stef Leppard says:

      Well said!

    • Mingy says:

      This baby, THIS!

  8. HoneyBea says:

    I don’t know how some of these inflammatory remarks slip past editors! Surely even if they agreed with these statements, they would be able to sense the uproar they would create.

  9. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I read the piece, and, while I agree it was patronizing, I thought he was trying to say that Rhimes creates black women characters who go beyond what we have seen on television so far – serene and elegant, like Claire Huxtable, sassy and brassy, funny and joke-cracking, downtrodden or just sidekicks. Her characters are actually mean, manipulative and sexy. I have no idea whether or not this is true, since I don’t watch much tv, but I think he meant to say that she allows her characters to be more fully developed than black women have been historically presented. I don’t think he meant that Rhimes herself was an angry black woman, but that her characters are allowed a full range of emotions and motives, just like white characters. That’s how I read it, anyway.

    • cr says:

      Alessandra is a ‘she’, and she’s a hack. And has been for as long as she’s been writing for the NYT. She’s gotten even worse as the television critic, despite her errors being pointed out repeatedly.

      “And though so many writers have already called out the error-prone Stanley and her elite publisher, I’m joining in on the roast because the media world needs to send a very strong message: we will not tolerate this blatant racism.

      Stanley’s piece is a tone-deaf attempt to praise the legendary Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and showrunner and executive producer of upcoming drama How To Get Away With Murder. ..”

      I don’t know how she manages to keep her job. Perhaps she has pictures of her bosses with underage girls/boys/goats?

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Oh, sorry about the “he,” don’t know where I got that. I do agree that the piece was patronizing, as I said, and tone deaf is an excellent way to describe it as well. However, some posters above are saying the she meant all black characters are supposed to be the help, etc., and I think that she meant the opposite, however poorly phrased. That’s all I’m saying.

      • cr says:

        “and I think that she meant the opposite, however poorly phrased. That’s all I’m saying. ” The problem with Stanley is that she’s such a bad writer I have no idea what she may have ‘thought’ she was writing. When I saw the headlines about this on Friday, I knew the writer was Stanley without having to look. She’s that bad. And she’s a Harvard grad and employed by what is supposed to be one of the best newspapers in the world. And to me, therefore, should have higher standards in terms of writing. And yet she gets away with this type of writing-error filled, incoherent and generally stupid-all the time.
        To me it isn’t just about Shonda Rhimes, it’s about how Stanley still has a job.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Must be the goat photos?

      • Bridget says:

        @GNAT people were referencing Stanley’s inaccurate comment about the cast of The Help primarily working in TV, because its only Allison Janney, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer.

        Stanley reduced Shonda to an offensive trope: that of an angry black woman, and her main characters as angry black women. But not only is it offensive, its blatantly incorrect: Rimes is supposed to be a pretty nice woman and great to work for, and not only would I never describe Olivia Pope or Miranda Bailey as “angry” – intelligent, passionate, competent, perhaps – Bailey isn’t even the main character pf Grey’s but was discussed as so to make Stanley’s point. It appears as though Stanley has never even watched the shows she’s writing about.

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      Whatever she meant to say (and frankly, I’m not sure what the heck she meant to say exactly but your interpretation is one option), the language she uses is inexcusable. She goes RIGHT to the worst stereotype in the first sentence and it doesn’t get much better throughout the piece. There is such a focus on sex and anger, it’s a bit frightening. I’ve watched quite a bit of Grey’s and Scandal and yes, those women have sex, they get angry sometimes but those are just two aspects of these very complex characters. She dares to write women (people, really) who aren’t always likeable. THAT is where she’s groundbraking in my opinion. But this writer sees “black”, “angry”, and “sexual” and can’t get past that.

      This is her initial description of two central characters: On “Grey’s Anatomy”, Bailey is a brilliant surgeon who terrorizes interns. Olivis of “Scandal” is the mistress of a married president while also maintaining an on-again-off-again affair with a black-ops czar.

    • Dolce crema says:

      I agree, that’s what I got from it too. But as others mentioned, this should not be in the nyt. This author doesn’t have the natural talent to get her point out with out tons of clumsiness, and sounding racist. So many people want to write, why her? This is awful. The idea is fine, it’s good to point out stereotypes are being broken. but find someone else to write it next time.

      I didn’t like scandal either. Really wanted to ..
      This new show looks good though

    • Sunny says:

      I get your point but that article was disgusting and ignorant to say nothing of her comments regarding Viola Davis which touch on some of the most problematic stereotypes about black beauty and black sexuality.

      And Claire Huxtable was often angry. She was serene and elegant, educated but often angry. It is funny timing but Slate ran a piece on this subject last week.

      A lot of Shondra’s characters have angry moments because they are human and feel the full range of the human experience.But to reduce Shondra and her characters down to simply being angry is to slot them as one thing and fail to acknowledge that they aren’t simply angry but human. This shit is disgusting and makes me angry.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        I agree with everything you said, and did not mean to end up trying to defend this very poor article.

  10. jema says:

    Why is everyone ignoring the fact that Shonda is not the writer of this new show. The writer is Pete Nowa a white male. So the critic didn’t get her facts right. Shonda is a producer for the show which helps viewers with name recognition. Racism is alive and well. I have personally experienced it. I choose to ignore people like this critic because then they win.

  11. LaurieH says:

    Just a note: this is not the first time Alessandra Stanley has been criticized for her sloppy research and writing. Nor is it the first time she has come up with head-scratching characterizations. And despite this history of lazy, error-ridden writing (dating back more than a decade), she continues to be lauded, rewarded and highly regarded by a litany of women’s groups, professional journalism associations and academic elites and institutions. That’s the mystery for me. It’s understandable that people unfamiliar with Stanley’s history would be aghast at her offensive “angry black woman” remark, but it irks me not just a little that the New York Times would continue to employ a person so unmoored from basic journalism principles (like yeah…a 2 second search on IMDB).

    • cr says:

      As I asked in a earlier comment, does she have pictures of her bosses with underage girls/boys/goats? Because she’s incompetent.

      Several news and media organizations, including the Times, have criticized the accuracy of Stanley’s reporting.[6][7][8][9][10] Among the articles that they have criticized are a September 5, 2005 piece on Hurricane Katrina,[11] a 2005 article that called the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond “All About Raymond”,[12] and a July 18, 2009 retrospective on the career of Walter Cronkite that contained eight research and spelling errors.[13] In an August 2009 article examining the mistakes in the Cronkite piece, Clark Hoyt, the Times’s public editor, described Stanley as “much admired by editors for the intellectual heft of her coverage of television” but “with a history of errors”.[14] Then executive editor Bill Keller defended Stanley, saying “She is — in my opinion, among others — a brilliant critic.” [15] In April 2012, Salon contributor Glenn Greenwald described her New York Times review of Julian Assange’s television debut as “revealing, reckless snideness” and “cowardly.”[16] On September 18, 2014, Stanley wrote an article in the NYT discussing Shonda Rhimes’ assent to television royalty. /The New York Times, Wrought in their Creator’s Image/ Stanley, however, confused the Creator of How To Get Away With Murder with the Producer, a record eight times. Additionally, she unskillfully referred to Rhimes’ characters as “angry black women”, without noting that the lead characters of two out of three of Rhimes’ shows were actually white, all of whom are equally as tough as the black characters. The majority of characters on Grey’s Anatomy are not black and routinely display anger, toughness and often selfish motivation, yet none of this is referred to in Stanley’s assault on Rhimes’ and the black female characters on three of the shows that she created and one that she produced.

      • LaurieH says:

        Exactly. This. Hopefully, this will be just the smack upside the head the New York Times needs to cut this hack loose.

      • Dolce crema says:

        But if it’s about shondas black women characters, compared to other tv writers black women characters, and not a complete shonda analysis, I think that’s fine

      • andypandy says:

        Perhaps you should ask yourself why it was necessary for this critic to reduce Rhimes body of work to only 3 Black Women in very diverse casts .Also She myopically assumes that as a black women Rhimes creation of these black characters can only be autobiographical (Apparently only white writers -male /female have the creative skills to develop a wide range of characters that are nothing like them)

  12. Alex says:

    If there’s one thing I like about Shondra is that she is very aware of everything. She casts women of color in complicated roles that only white people seen to get. Because like she said why is it that Olivia and Bailey are “angry black women”? When Mellie and Addison display similar behaviors also? I also loved the epic shade she threw on twitter and the Grey’s reference about “dancing it off”

    Did you guys see the panel they had with the leads of her shows? It was very informative as they spoke about WOC being in lead roles. It was great

  13. Steph says:

    Wow,I can’t believe someone actually wrote that, and in the NYT. Have they laid off all of the editors at the Times? This is simply unbelievable that someone would write this in a major publication. The comment was truly racist!

  14. Rice says:

    She’s not just a racist, but she’s an ill-informed racist (are there any other kinds?). Someone needs to critique her “piece” with wrong information and then call her an angry white woman. Let’s see how she likes that.

    • LaurieH says:

      But that’s the thing: this is not the first time Stanley has been criticized for her journalistic incompetence and ignorance. There is a long history of it and yet the New York Times continues to employ her. They bear just as much responsibility for this. They damn well knew what they were getting with her.

  15. FingerBinger says:

    The writer is actually saying something positive. She’s saying that Shonda Rimes’ characters aren’t playing the stereotypical characters of maids or the funny sidekick that many black women play in TV shows and movies. Black women can be in charge and can be sexual beings. The “angry black woman” angle of the story was unnecessary. I don’t know if I would paint the author of this article racist either. Some people buy into stereotypes and sometimes it has nothing to do with being being racist.

    • AlwaysConfused says:

      Buying into stereotypes is racist. Racism isn’t just not hiring people because of the color of their skin, etc. Racism is behaving and reacting — both subtlety and blatantly — in ways that keep white privilege alive and well. Racism isn’t always malicious. There are many, many, MANY “casual racists” out there who have no idea that that are “casually racist.”

    • Steph says:

      Perhaps the author isn’t racist,but was attempting to be provocative to gain attention or make a point. She succeeded in gaining attention but truly failed at whatever point she was attempting to make.

    • andypandy says:

      @ Fingerbinger and Good Names
      Sorry there is nothing positive about this piece and it goes beyond patronizing, it is classic passive aggressive racism .The author has managed to bundle almost every negative stereotype and insults about BW in one article which is quite a feat. It addition to being poorly researched, haphazard and lazy this piece is teaming with backhanded compliments
      Viola Davis is sexy BUT menacing , beautiful but LESS classically beautiful than Halle Berry( who is 1/ 2 white ) Yes Davis was a maid in the Help but she was equally brilliant in her recurring guest roles as a lawyer in Law & Order SVU (where I first took note of her work)

      Anyone who watched Cosby Show would know that yes Clair was elegant but not made of cardboard and wasn’t afraid to read the riot act to her sexist son in law ,or her errant kids husband or coworkers (you know as complex human beings do)

      What I find most interesting is that Rimes is NO WAY credited for the white characters in her though diverse still overwhelming white shows. In Greys for instance two main leads are WW who have cheated and have had some epic rants (but they aren’t angry white women)
      It seems the author is begrudgingly acknowledging a Black womans success but decided to put her in her place first Cuz you know how those women can get all uppity and Sh!t

  16. Delilah says:

    I don’t even know where to begin. But I can say that I am very grateful to Shonda Rhimes for successfully introducing the world to characters of all colors that don’t fit narrow stereotypes. Unfortunately peoples’ perceptions are shaped by what they are exposed so most who embrace stereotypes do so because of limited exposure to POC. TV (and all media) becomes the trusted source of views on how POCs behave. How many times does a news station, reporter or disc jockey choose a “random” individual that coincidentally fits the stereotype for the story or sketch?

    I lived in a small town in the Midwest which was very segregated. However, my siblings and I went to the same private schools and lived in “rich” neighborhoods with our privileged white counterparts. In a highschool of 1000 students maybe 10-15 were POCs and 3 of us made up part of that 10-15. That means our school had 1.5% representation of POC. We were constantly told “we don’t like black people but you’re different.” Perhaps b/c to them we defied their narrow media-based views that black people exclusively wear hats turned back or saggy pants, only speak Ebonics, only listen to rap, are aggressive, threatening, ignorant, etc. Yet still there was the expectation that we were brilliant athletes who could sing and dance well and made good sidekicks and bodyguards despite all evidence to the contrary. I give these examples to illustrate how people are slow to realize the lesson: Not all people of the same race are the same. Lumping them together is not the answer. Only then will you realize good and bad characteristics can be possessed by all races. Further, an accurate view of the an individual is best constructed in observing the individual.

  17. Aly says:

    While I find Shondas shows to be over the top ridiculous to the point I find the cringe worthy (I’m looking at you Scandal..yikes) I must say fvck the NYT for publishing that. I might find her shows to be awful but that woman deserves all the success she has.

  18. jenny12 says:

    Guess she liked Viola playing the help. Idiot. What a condescending piece, which is ironic, since it’s riddled with errors.

  19. Marybel says:

    Dear God, what’s wrong with being “blacker” or “less beautiful” ???

    • andypandy says:

      That’s all you got from this entire discourse ???????

      • Dolce crema says:

        Can’t people comment on one thing, especially if lots has been said about other issues already? I tend to mention things that ppl haven’t said, after reading the comments.

      • andypandy says:

        Yes people can comment on whatever they want, There is however context tone and nuance
        @Marybel “ Dear God! Comment comes across as the author was simply stating the facts about blacker and less beautiful and people of course were too sensitive/overreacting to the plain truth. When in fact these words add to the overall tone deafness of an entire piece it is disingenuous to just take them out (especially out of context)

  20. Olenna says:

    Stanley is either appalling ignorant or appalling stupid. Actually, it doesn’t matter. What has been published and read cannot be unpublished and unread in this day and age. She’s got the dummy badge now and can’t unwear it.

  21. Jess says:

    This chick should lose her job, period. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea but Shonda has continually put out successful shows with all types of story lines, from happy to angry to sad to insane, and involved all types of characters, gay, straight, and interracial couples etc, she even fired one of her lead BLACK actors for calling a fellow castmate a “fag*ot”, and the cast of scandal obviously loves her and their work environment, I don’t even have twitter but I love seeing how they interact with fans every Thursday. Nothing but nice things to say about Shonda. So screw this ignorant “journalist”, she’s obviously looking for attention and I hope it comes in the form of someone firing her dumbas*.

  22. Kat says:

    F*ck the NYT. Shonda is awesome.

  23. jwoolman says:

    Doesn’t the writer have a smartphone? She could do her fact-checking during bathroom breaks or on an exercise bike, it’s so easy today. It’s not as though she had to wait for a research assistant to go to the library. Heck, she could write the article on a phone today (word processors for smartphones are available).

    But you have to blame the editor as well. Don’t editors or their lackeys do any fact-checking any more? There were also things in the article that should have been caught for inflammatory tone.

  24. Ally8 says:

    Whenever anyone attaches “angry” (or “shrill”) to anything as an insult against another person, simply read it as “I’m scared of that person”.

    It’s also one of these words that’s only used to describe members of a previously oppressed class, i.e. people who used to be intimidated into silence but are now actively participating in the conversation in the public square; hence the reaction is: “I’m scared. Just hearing their voices makes me perceive them as ‘angry’.”

  25. NEENAZEE says:

    Just read the NYT piece… I think Stanley was intending to be supportive and balanced, but ended up sounding mystified that black people (who don’t look like white people) are suddenly in places they weren’t before. And all the overworked comparisons between Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and HTGAWM don’t really work. Rimes is a champion for strong, interesting, multi-faceted female characters… who gives a f-ck what race, color or creed they are? Let’s all be thankful she’s in the business.

    What’s most embarrassing, in my opinion, are the two corrections at the end of the article which clearly demonstrate that (1) Stanley didn’t bother adequately researching Rimes’ body of work and role in the upcoming HTGAWM and (2) originally named Nicole Beharie in the article, as if all black actors are interchangeable.